Wednesday, February 16, 2011
THE POET LAURETE and ME: Who’s That Knocking On My Door?
Here we go again, another installment of Who’s That Knocking On My Door?
Who hasn’t heard of Edgar Allen Poe or Gil Scott Heron? Well, how about Shellie, the poet laureate of a small Midwestern city; have you heard about her? If not, have a seat and let me tell you a little sumtin’.
She stopped by the blog and said the following...
“Hey Carey, I've been reading your blog for a while. How long? (Not long). I find it interesting and well-written. I especially liked the post that talked about you and your brothers on Christmas day and of course the post about your great great grandfather. Keep doin your thang! ~ Shellie
Uuuuummm, “How Long” ... “Not Long”? I heard a reporter ask Dr. Martin Luther King a question. He said. “Dr. King, you’ve taken on a monumental task, how long will it be before your dream comes true”? With a smile on his face, Martin Luther King replied “Not Long!”. So know I’m thinking.... “Uuuuuum, I have heard those words before, but who is this knock knock knocking on my door? So I went on a little trip to find out who and wherefore art thou, Shellie?
I had to go waaaaay back to find the scoop on this woman. Now I ain’t trying to tell all her business... BUT. I found out she was a mother at a very early age and was forced to raise her family of four; 2 twin girls and 2 older boys, in the projects. Life wasn’t easy because she was married to a man that had a serious substance abuse problem that eventually took his life.
Shellie came from a very supportive family; 2 parents, 3 brothers and a sister. Her father won the long jump at the famed Drake Relays and her mother was always by his side, hand in hand, showing the children the right way.
One day, with little money, and four crumb snatchers in tow, Shellie took a leap of blind faith. She packed up her stuff and moved to Beverly Hills... out of the projects that is. No swimming pools nor movie stars, but out of the west end.
As life went on, she became one of her city’s biggest advocates for changes. Voting rights, equal rights, the right to stand up and declare her right to share her view as a woman of color, was always the chnage she was looking for. She’s a black woman that knows first hand how hard life can be, so she devoted much of her life to helping others come out of their storms. On many occasions she had to battle her city counsel members, and other blacks that saw easy money in the hills of pimping and pandering the disenfranchised. Yes, sometimes we can be our worst enemy.
But Shellie was not to be deterred. She went on to organize a traveling troop of women who all experienced domestic violence issues. They’re called “The Healing Waters Project”. Their mission is to advance the message that domestic violence does not have to live in the closet.
But Shellie has been working her magic for a long time. She once was looking for an outdoor activity that her children could get involved with during their school’s summer break. She didn’t have the money to send them on long vacations in the Hampton’s, and the park and recreation department in her city didn’t have programs for children in her part of town. So she decided to build it and they would come. Boy did they come! It was a track team y’all.
No bats, no balls, and no fancy uniforms, just get on the track and run like the wind. And boy did they run. They ran in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Florida, Utah, Nebraska and Pennsylvania. Many ran straight to collage and one even ran in the Olympics and took home gold. Looking back on those days, I can hear Shellie’s loud roar as the tracksters went through their daily workouts.
They were on the starting line getting ready to begin their sprints.... her voice rang out “ Get ready, beat somebody, you don’t have to win, but beat somebody. If you keep doing it right, one day you will win”. Before they took off, Shellie would always yell the departing words of “HOW LONG?”. The kids would yell back “NOT LONG!”. Again, with more gusto than the first time, she’d yell “HOW LONG!”. Then, with deep determination and conviction, the pumped up young runners would yell back - one more time - at the top of their voices “NOT LONG!”, and then take off running. Oh boy, dusty little neighborhood kids who many of them, in a ironic way, were running for their life. Shellie was a pretty fast runner herself. She could frequently be seen huffing and puffing right along with the much younger legs, trying to beat somebody and not let anyone beat her. And in a serendipitous way, running to her next challenge has been Shellie’s saving grace.
I don’t know what inspires most poets, but I can’t help but believe some of their pain and struggles are whisked away, finding a place of eases and comfort, in the words of their poems. Shellie is now the HNIC poet in her city. She has scratched and clawed to find her rightful place in life, and along the way she found time to write several poems. The following is her first book of poetry. Remembering Melodies: A Thank-You Note
Remember my opening lines “there are some people in our lives that we just have to deal with, and the results of those encounters can lead to serious issues of concerns”? Well, Shellie is my cousin and my major concern is what would I do if I didn’t have her in my life? We’ve traveled many roads together and share untold memories. Her comment “ I liked the post that talked about you and your brothers on Christmas day and of course the post about your great great grandfather” speaks volumes. My grandfather is her grandfather and we lived a stone’s throw away from each other. So she saw my brothers and I on several Christmas mornings. Yes folks, Shellie has seen me up and seen me down, and I’ve seen her go round-n-round.
I was part of that track team which brought a wealth of knowledge and development to hundreds of black youth. She also got me involved in a little league program that had me, my dumb ass, up in front of the power brokers of that city, fighting for the right to run a concession stand in our own park, that another group, who didn’t even live in that neighborhood, had deceitfully taken away to sooth their greed and fatten their coffers. And you better believ, we got it back!Oh yeah, many times Shellie and I had to stand back to back, shoulder to shoulder, and say “HOW LONG?”. Many times we had to shake our heads and say, “here we go again”.
What would I do without my cousin in my life? I don’t even want to think about that.
And, I wonder if she every forgave me and her brother for burning her with matches. She can never forget about that because our mischief left a 2 inch scar that she still wears today. Some people believe it's a birth mark. She quickly tells them that God didn't give that to her, her cousin and her brother did.
But listen, now it’s time to say goodbye to all my friends, because someone else is knocking at my door. So I am off to open it. Y’all come back now, ya hear?